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Review Date: 08/08/2008

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Birds of Prey #120
Written by Tony Bedard
Art by Nicola Scott and Doug Hazlewood
Cover by Stephane Roux
Size: 32 Pages
Price: $2.99

     Birds Of Prey is a ensemble team of D.C. female heros, centered around former Batgirl Barbara Gordon (no relation!), now wheelchair-bound since being shot by The Joker in the acclaimed Allan Moore-scripted The Killing Joke graphic novel (1988). It was also a critically-acclaimed USA Network t.v. series back in 2002, known for the marketing tagline "Batman's Little Girl Is All Grown-Up."
     Barbara is now known as The Oracle, a computer hacker/information expert who provides her technical services to superheros and her leadership and tactical experience to a core of superheros consisting of Black Canary, Huntress, Lady Blackhawk and a rotating cast of in-and-out team members.
     Issue #120, entitled "Mad Science," is written by Tony Bedard, pencilled by Michael O'Hare and inked by John Floyd.  The plot centers around Oracle trying-out a new potential team member on a test assignment, a character named Infinity who can materialize through solid objects.  Black Canary and Huntress have no idea that a potential new team member is in the mix, which leads to bruised egos in the midst of the team taking-on a pair of bad guy teams who are manipulating a high-tech, Silicon Valley-type company.
     Birds of Prey is an excellent D.C. team premise, but this particular issue really falls flat on the writing.  Tony Bedard has huge shoes to fill following Gail Simone's shift to Wonder Woman, and he trips-up by not really explaining much along the way in terms of the Birds Of Prey world structure.  If you jump into this comic the way I did without any previous background, you really can't tell what heros belong to the team, who these bad guys are, etc.  
     Bedard needs to mix-in a minor amount of team explanation and a small but significant element of plot summary from the previous issue; from page one, the reader is thrown head first into fast action and detailed dialogue continued from the previous issue.  It's extremely confusing and disorienting, and frankly difficult to understand just what is going on in this story.
     Unfortunately, I would recommend skipping this confusing particular issue.  I do like very much the Birds of Prey team premise, however, and would suggest that the faithful D.C. reader keep an eye on future issues of this line, and try to pick-up a story line at the beginning of a new story arc. 

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Superman/Batman #50
Title Story: The Fathers
Publisher: DC
Writer: Michael Green & Mike Johnson
Artists: Ed Benes, Mathew Clark, Allan Goldman & Ian Churchill
Inkers: Matt Banning, Norm Rapmund, Marlo Alouiza & Rob Hunter
Colors: John Rauch, Andrew Robinson w/ Greg DiGenti

This particular Superman/Batman comic line was created a few years back by Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness.  The creative pair established in this comic a really fresh and innovative idea of parallell narratives by Batman and Superman on just about every page.  Basically, the reader gets two different, simultaneous perspectives on the storyline.  This structure also shows the reader how the superhero pair have such completely differing, opposing personalities and attitudes, yet underneath it all their basic values still make them a brother-like team.  It's a really fun, fresh approach that breathed new life into presenting a superhero duo that's been teamed-up in comics seemingly forever-and-a-day.
     I was a huge fan of this comic when Loeb and McGuinness ran it, and frankly walked away from it in disappointment when subsequent creative teams brought it back down to average or below-average stories and artwork.  As such, I was curious to see how it was being handled these days, with the recent production of a double-length ($3.99) special 50th issue.  This special issue was written by Michael Green and Mike Johnson, pencilled by Benes, Clark, Goldman and Churchill, and inked by Banning, Rapmund, Alquiza and Hunter.
     There's nothing more enjoyable for me in a comic than a fresh, new interpretation of the basic elements of a superhero character or his/her basic world structure.  It doesn't happen very often and when it does these days, its from someone we all expect it from, such as a Tim Sale or a Jeph Loeb.  So it was a thrill to see such a storyline unexpectedly pop-up in Superman/Batman #50.
     There are dual, interconnected storylines in this issue's plot.  In the present, our dynamic duo with the assistance of just about all of the Justice Leaguers battle two pieces of old Kryptonian technology that are partially damaged and as such run amok on Earth.  The second, key storyline is a flashback story that offers us the amazing premise of Superman's father Jor-El communicating with and actually meeting-up with Bruce Wayne's father, Thomas Wayne, before either of our heros were even born.  It's a neat premise on its own, but what elevates it to a classic D.C. tale is the very original details of how the father's dual actions not only directly affect the action going-on in the present, but actually determined the possibility of both Superman and Batman even coming into being.
     I don't know if Superman/Batman as a comic line will continue to roller coaster in quality as it has during the first 50 issues (you can check-out the graphic novel reprint compilations and judge for yourself).  But I do know you're missing an instant classic issue if you skip #50.  So don't!

 In Memorium-Michael Turner (1972-2008)

Please take a moment in your current comic reading to read a moving tribute in the back of current D.C. issues to comic artist/writer/creater Michael Turner, who recently lost his long battle with cancer much too soon.  As a tribute to Turner, I'd ask you out there to feel free and e-mail me at Gordon_A@msn.com your favorite Turner comic and characters, and we can list out your choices in a future column as a tribute to this talented comic creator.

 
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